A group of Middleburgh residents is putting the village’s future up for a vote.
Roughly 85 residents led by former village mayor Gary Hayes submitted a petition in October calling for a dissolution referendum, said current Mayor Matthew Avitabile, who is opposed to dissolution but has no choice but to set a public vote. The village administration set that vote for February.
Hayes on Monday said he was surprised a vote is set for February because it’s his understanding a thorough study has to take place first.
“They have a year to put it up for a vote, and they’re supposed to do a study,” Hayes said.
Many functions of village government are already shared with the town, leading Hayes to believe there’s no need for a village government at all.
Hayes said the village stopped providing a village justice due to cost, and the town and village public works departments are both led by the same director.
The state maintains much of the key roadways through the village, including routes 30 and 145, and the county maintains Clauverwie Road, so there aren’t that many roadways that would have to be handled by the town, Hayes contends.
“It’s just another layer of government. Other communities have done it and they’ve survived and they’ve thrived,” he said.
Avitabile said eliminating the village altogether would produce roughly $70,000 in annual savings, but he believes it would create some up-front costs for residents, including consulting and legal fees needed to organize and complete the dissolution.
Despite the savings, Avitabile said dissolution could hamper post-flood revitalization efforts.
“It’s going to stall any economic recovery we’ve had since the flood,” he said.
The village is mailing an information packet to residents in the village. Town residents outside the village won’t get to vote on the measure that would drop all of the village’s services into the lap of town officials.
That move would lead to a “substantial increase” in taxes for town residents, Middleburgh Town Supervisor James Buzon said.
Buzon said he believes a reasoned study of ways the two municipalities could consolidate services would be more productive and less permanent.
“With consolidation you can always go back and unconsolidate if the need arises. With dissolution, you can never go back. Once the village is dissolved, the village is dissolved,” he said.
Buzon said the Town Board has discussed the issue and decided not to make an official statement, and instead wait and see what residents decide.
“As a taxpayer I would definitely be against it. But as the Town Board goes, let’s face it, if it’s dissolved, if that’s what the voters want, then that’s what they want,” he said.
He said another concern with losing a municipality is that there would be one less entity eligible for grant funding and other aid such as federal and state money that goes toward roadwork.
Dissolution would eliminate several offices, departments and agencies — public works, planning, zoning, codes enforcement, building department, youth commission, Village Board, village clerk, the Fire Department, the Middleburgh Area Business Association, village ethics committee and the village revitalization committee, according to information the village is distributing.
“In essence, in one grant both municipalities could get a separate grant. If you dissolve the village, basically you’ve lost that whole stream of revenue coming in,” Buzon said.
According to a breakdown of the dissolution process provided by the village, a successful vote would put a deadline of Sept. 15, 2013, for a dissolution plan to be established leading to full dissolution by April 2016.
Avitabile said public hearings will be scheduled on the topic leading up the vote, which is planned for Tuesday, Feb. 19.